Social control is a concept that refers to how society regulates and maintains social order. It encompasses the various institutions, practices, and mechanisms that enforce a society’s norms, values, and laws. Understanding the concept of social control is essential in understanding how society functions and how individuals are shaped by their social environment. In this article, we will explore the definition of social control and examine the significant agencies that play a role in shaping and maintaining social order. We will also discuss how these agencies impact our daily lives and how they work together to regulate behaviour and maintain societal stability.

Rousseau’s book “Social Contract” begins with a famous sentence “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chairs.” Indeed, man cannot be accessible in society. Attainment of individual happiness is the main aim of social life. Individuals can attain happiness not with unbounded freedom for action but with restrained behaviour. The control that the society exercises over the behaviour of its members through various mechanisms can be referred to as ‘social control’.

Social Control: Definition and Agencies
Social Control 101 Defining the Concept and Exploring the Agencies

Define Social Control

Social control refers to the control of society over the individual social control implies a system of devices through which society controls the activities of individual members.

E.A. Ross was the first American sociologist to deal with this concept of social control in his famous book “Social Control”. 

According to Ross, “Social control refers to the system of devices where society brings its members into conformity with the accepted standards of behaviour.”

According to MacIver and Page, “How the entire social order coheres and maintains itself.” 

Hughs says, “Social control refers to the method and strategies that regulate behaviour within society.”

So by analysing the definition above, social control is a process by which the behaviour of individuals has been controlled.

Agencies of Social Control

Society or group maintains social control by creating agencies that may enforce formal or informal control. There are many agencies of social control which regulate individual behaviour. The agencies are-

  1. Family
  2. Education
  3. Mass media
  4. Government
  5. Peer group
  6. Workplace
  7. Public opinion
  8. Religion
  9. Law of orders
  10. Ceremonies
  11. Art
  12. Myth
  13. Tabu
  14. Personality
  15. Village community
  16. Punishment

In the following, these major agencies of social control will be narrated.


As a basis of social control family plays a vital role in social control. Such as –

  1. Family gives mental support, which keeps people far from deviance. 
  2. It teaches about right and wrong and the concept of evil and good. 
  3. It teaches us to obey rules and norms. 
  4. Family helps to learn about the command and rules. 
  5. Through this, one can learn cooperative behaviour.

Educational institution

Education is a necessary condition for adequately exercising social control. Humans must use it to make a good society. It converts social control into self-control. The educational institution has some roles in social control.

  1. The educational institution helps to distinguish between truth and errors. 
  2. It teaches about discipline and resetting others. 
  3. It concerns the way of life. 

Mass media

Mass media is one of the most important agents of social control. It plays such roles-

  1. Media helps to concern us by providing necessary information. 
  2. It is taking different steps to control society. 
  3. Mass media expresses the punishment of criminals and deviance in various countries, which helps social control. 
  4. It expresses and publishes social norms, values, and the harmful effects of crime and deviance.


Government can play an influential role in social control. By taking proper steps government can make a good society, such as-.

  1. Applying strict codes of law helps social control. 
  2. By reforming the security system, the government takes proper steps against crimes and criminals.

Peer group

Peer groups also perform some role in social control, such as-

  1. It helps to know about self-development. 
  2. It teaches us to conform to one.


The workplace can act as a good agency of social control.

  1. It helps to follow work rules and teaches about discipline. 
  2. It helps to know the current condition of society and concerns about this.

Public opinion

Public opinion may be the collective opinion of the members of a group. So it is an essential agency of social control. The roles of public opinion in social control, such as-

  1. Public opinion makes it easy to know people’s needs, ideas, beliefs and values.
  2. People’s behaviour is influenced by attitudes and desires, which are reflected by public opinion. So, it helps to know what behaviour is acceptable and what is not.


Religion acts as a guide to human behaviour. It has ways and means of reintegrating the disobedient into the social group. The roles of religion are-

  1. Religion helps to be concerned with the conceptions of goodness and evil. 
  2. The man obeys religious rules because of his fear towards God. Morality is an institution that is closely related to religion. So morally good people are also socially good.


In the myth, there are many educative elements about pieces of advice, examples, morals, the success of honesty, the victory of truth, the defeat of false etc. These myths inspire the truth and protect us from doing wrong work. In the rural area, these myths influence people to ensure social control.


Everyman’s life starts with a joyous festival or ceremony, and his life also ends with a different ceremony that means pain. So ceremonies play a vital role for social control. Marriage is a special ceremony in our society. Marriage keeps us away from unsocial activities.


Law is an important agency to control society. Law has two opposite appeals.

  1. Law keeps us aloof from doing unsocial activities. 
  2. In special case law appealed to us to do something.

These two opposite appeals keep out from doing unsocial activities and make us social, responsible and dutiful.


Sometimes local people, pious teachers, political leaders, social workers, and religious leaders can be idols to the people. They are symbols of honesty. Their lifestyles influence the people. This helps us to maintain social control.


It is the most ancient process of social control. Religious norms and values influence this process. Tabu means a prohibition on something. The ancient people believed that if they obeyed these prohibitions, they could produce more food. At that time, the people strictly followed tabu, and they get controlled. At present, it is seen in village areas.

All of these agencies of social control influence behaviour in any society. By reforming these agencies, we can get an ideal and stable society.